If your breath has a metallic smell, it could be a sign of bacteria growing below the gum line, which can lead to inflammation and even infection. This is known as periodontitis and is more likely to occur if you smoke, don't brush your teeth or floss regularly, or have a family history of gum disease. Halitosis is an oral health problem in which the main symptom is bad breath. To treat this preventable condition, it's important to identify the cause.
It can be difficult to assess your own breath, so it's best to ask a close friend or family member for their opinion. People who are lactose intolerant may emit a sour or milk-like smell due to their body's inability to break down milk proteins. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, salivary gland disorders, or breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. Fruity bad breath or an acetone-like odor (similar to nail polish remover) can indicate a serious complication in diabetic patients called ketoacidosis.
Food particles that get trapped in the tonsils can form hard stones that irritate the throat and cause bad breath. Dehydration, dry mouth, and poor oral hygiene are all directly related to halitosis, but this condition can also be an early warning sign for some people and an advanced symptom for other bodily conditions, depending on the smell of the breath. Researchers from the University of Latvia used an electronic nose to detect different profiles of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath from 475 subjects, including 252 patients with lung cancer, 223 patients with different lung conditions and healthy volunteers, 265 smokers and 210 non-smokers. Studies show that 50 percent of adults have experienced bad breath at some point in their lives.
A fishy smell can occur when kidney failure affects the respiratory system and causes respiratory problems. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or simply by breathing through the mouth. The hardening of mucus inside the tonsils (known as “runny nose”) can clog the nose and produce strange breath, while generalized coughs, colds, and chronic sinus infections can cause a smell similar to naphthalene by converting proteins contained in mucus into “skatole” - a natural compound commonly found in coal tar and feces. The longer you wait to brush your teeth and floss food particles from your mouth, the more likely you are to experience bad breath.
Poor dental hygiene is usually the cause of halitosis, but it can also indicate another underlying medical condition. Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no smell in their mouths, while others have bad breath and don't know it. The main symptom of halitosis is a bad smell from the mouth that is considered to be beyond a socially acceptable level.